close-up of the rectangular Masters Berlin trophy on stage
close-up of the rectangular Masters Berlin trophy on stage

Five things we learned at VALORANT Masters: Berlin

by Mitch Reames

The final major tournament before VALORANT Champions crowns the first world champion of the young esport certainly did not disappoint. Heading into Berlin, only a couple teams were locked into a spot at Champions, but by the end of the tournament, 12 of the 16 teams were confirmed. The final four will be added via four different Last Chance Qualifiers beginning in October. In just VALORANT’s second international tournament, there was plenty to learn from what happened in Berlin.

Europe and North America's rivalry is neck-and-neck

NA vs. EU (or EMEA) isn’t a heated rivalry in most esports, but it certainly is in VALORANT. After Sentinels dominated Masters: Reykajvík, NA had the upper hand. With Gambit’s win over Envy in the finals of Berlin, EMEA leveled the score. NA might still be slightly better than EU, but CIS juggernaut Gambit makes the regional rivalry a whole lot closer.

In all, NA and EMEA matched up five times over the course of the tournament. Sentinels played G2 twice, 100 Thieves played Gambit and Acend, and Envy played Gambit. Over those five matches, NA went 3-2. However, the map differential was skewed in favor of EMEA who won 8 maps compared to NA’s 6.

That’s largely thanks to Gambit’s 3-0 sweep of Envy in the finals. Although EMEA won this tournament, the results aren’t enough to clearly decide that either region has a definitive case to be the best. It will truly be left up to Champions.

What both regions can agree on however is that they are a tier above any other region. NA and EMEA sent a total of seven teams to Berlin, six of them moved to the eight-team bracket round. The only one who missed was SuperMassive Blaze as Vision Strikers and Acend moved out of the tough group.

The two teams not from NA or EMEA in the bracket stage both lost in the first round as Korea’s Vision Strikers were eliminated by Gambit and Latin America’s KRÜ Esports were taken out by G2. With all four semifinalists coming from NA and EMEA, it’s clear the two regions have the most talented teams in VALORANT esports right now.

Vision Strikers are absolutely the best team outside NA and EMEA

Photo credit: Riot Games

Korea’s dominance in various esports is well documented. During VCT Stage 2, an upset in Korea’s Challengers meant that Vision Strikers, who consistently dominated the VALORANT scene in the country, missed out on showcasing what they could do on the international stage at Masters: Reykjavík. In Berlin, VS didn’t disappoint.

After being placed in the toughest group with Acend, SuperMassive Blaze and Paper Rex, Vision Strikers swept both matches to move to the bracket stage. The 2-0 win over Acend was particularly impressive.

In the bracket stage, VS’s reward was a matchup with Gambit. VS got smoked on Bind but fired back on Split to even the series before Gambit closed it out with a dominant game on Icebox.

A first-round exit doesn’t sound impressive, but VS were the only team who took a map off Gambit in the bracket stage. Following the win over VS, Gambit took out G2 2-0 and Envy 3-0. VS ended the tournament with a 5-2 map differential against solid opponents and had to play the eventual champions in the first round.

They may have missed the semifinals, but they did lock in a spot at Champions, and their performance in this tournament makes them the only team outside of NA or EMEA that will have a good shot at the championship trophy in a few months.

Jett is too good on LAN, but nAts is even better

Photo credit: Riot Games

Everyone loves Jett, but the dominant agent in online play only gets better at LAN. Of the top six players in the bracket stage of Berlin by ACS, four chose only Jett. G2’s Cista “keloqz” Wassim, Acend’s Mehmet “cNed” Yagiz Ipek, Envy’s Jaccob “yay” Whiteaker and Vision Strikers’ Yu “BuZz” Byung-Chul all finished with an ACS above 225 over the course of the bracket stage.

Trailing them were 100 Thieves’ Peter “Asuna” Mazuryk and Sentinels’ Tyson “TenZ” Ngo who played primarily Jett but also picked other agents for at least one map. This says a lot about how powerful Jett is as an agent but it also says a lot about Gambit.

The two players who were able to compete with every other team's Jett main were Ayaz “nAts” Akhmetshin and Timofey “Chronicle” Khromov from Gambit. NAts, playing on Viper and Cypher, finished with a crazy 275 ACS. Chronicle, thanks to a dominant performance in the grand finals, finished with 242 ACS playing as Sova and Viper. That’s good for third and fifth over the course of the bracket stage. Nikita “d3ffo” Sudakov, Gambit’s dedicated Jett main, finished 12th.

There are really two takeaways here. First, Gambit is nuts, nAts especially is an absolute star who is doing things no one else has done on this stage with his agent pool. It will be interesting to see how other teams adjust their strategy after Gambit’s success.

But the larger takeaway going forward is that this tournament only increased the volume on the calls for a Jett nerf. Although Jett has been tweaked a bit, (she received a nerf in Riot’s latest patch notes), but given where we are in the schedule for VALORANT esports, it's unlikely more drastic changes are made before Champions. Last Chance Qualifiers begin in just a few weeks, and once the entire field is set, it would be odd to completely change the meta before Champions.

Jett is definitely too strong overall, but we will likely still be in the Jett meta by the time Champions rolls around. After that, however, the nerf hammer will swing like Mjolnir.

Brazil is definitely not a major region and might be one of the worst

Photo credit: Riot Games

Going into Masters: Reykjavík, Brazil was given a lot of credit. And the region had earned that credit with tons of high level play in CS:GO, Rainbow Six and other FPS esports. None of that success has translated to VALORANT though.

Here is the entire history of Brazil’s teams on the international stage over two tournaments so far.

Team Vikings (Reykjavík): W 2-0 X10 Esports (13-11, 14-12 scorelines), L 2-0 Sentinels (13-7, 13-6), L 2-0 Team Liquid (13-8, 13-5). Eliminated lower bracket Round 3

Sharks Esports (Reykjavík): L 2-1 Nuturn Gaming (13-5, 5-13, 5-13), L 2-0 KRÜ Esports (13-5, 13-6). Eliminated lower bracket Round 1

Vivo Keyd (Berlin): L 2-0 Envy (15-13, 13-9), W 2-0 ZETA Division (13-3, 13-4), L 2-0 KRÜ Esports (13-11, 13-11). Eliminated group stage

Havan Liberty (Berlin): L 2-0 100 Thieves (13-3, 13-6), L 2-0 Crazy Raccoon (13-9, 13-8) Eliminated group stage.

We have seen four Brazilian teams play over two tournaments and the results are consistently poor. In all, Brazil is 2-8 on the international stage. The two wins came over Souteast Asia’s X10 Esports and Japan’s ZETA Division.

In Iceland, the only regions to receive two slots were NA, EMEA and Brazil. Clearly one of those doesn’t belong. Even after removing all the games against NA, EMEA and Korea, Brazil still has a losing record of 2-3 against other regions in international tournaments.

It’s absolutely fair to put Latin America above Brazil given KRÜ Esports’ 2-0 record against them, and there’s an argument to be made for both Japan and Southeast Asia to be above them as well. When VALORANT esports began, Brazil was thought to be near the top. After two tournaments, we can definitively say that they belong closer to the bottom of all the VALORANT regions.

Champions is going to be incredibly competitive

With 12 of 16 teams locked in for Champions at the end of the year, the field is already stacked. NA’s Sentinels and Envy will lead the way as 100 Thieves will have to fight their way through the LCQ. It’s entirely possible a team like XSET or C9 Blue with new IGL Anthony “vanity” Malaspina make it instead.

EMEA will see Gambit, Acend and Fnatic representing the region with one more team to come. From that group we get the winner of Masters: Berlin, the runners-up in Iceland and arguably the most talented individual player in Acend’s cNed. With so much talent spread out around EMEA, it’s subjective whether these are truly the best teams, but it's probably the best possible field the region could have hoped to send. One more team will join them from LCQ where G2 and SuperMassive Blaze are the early favorites.

Vision Strikers locked in Korea’s one spot in Champions, clearly the most talented team from the country. The same can be said of LATAM’s KRÜ, who have dominated the Latin American VALORANT scene over the entire year. Owning Brazil in yet another international tournament has to feel good for them as well.

For Brazil, it’s Team Vikings and Vivo Keyd. Vivo Keyd had the best performance of any Brazil team on the international stage so far although that’s not saying much. A close performance against Envy, who made it all the way to the grand final, and a decisive win over Japan’s second seed is somehow the best Brazilian performance yet. Team Vikings has the region's only other win on an international stage after beating X10 Esports.

Speaking of X10, they made it in despite missing Berlin. They are joined by Team Secret, formerly Bren Esports, who were unable to compete in Berlin despite qualifying for it. This is probably the only region where I don’t think the best team is headed to Champions off circuit points as Paper Rex looked impressive in games against Vision Strikers and SuperMassive Blaze. Still, we didn’t get to see Team Secret play in Berlin, so they’re a worthy inclusion as well and somewhat of a wild card.

Paper Rex will get a chance to qualify through Asia’s LCQ. Their primary competition is likely to be Korea’s Nuturn Gaming and F4Q although two yet undetermined Chinese teams create a variable no other LCQ has to overcome.

Our final team is Japan’s Crazy Raccoon. They had a rollercoaster of a time in Berlin where they gained a ton of fans. It started with a 13-1, 13-1 loss to Gambit. Then CR beat Havan Liberty to set up a rematch with Gambit. It was much, much closer as CR lost 13-8 and 14-12 to be eliminated by the eventual champions. That’s the kind of performance that shows a team able to play with the best in the world even if they don’t have that one signature win quite yet.

VALORANT’s first true champion will be crowned in just a few months. With most of the field set, there’s no question that this will be VALORANT’s most difficult tournament yet.

Lead photo credit: Riot Games

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